I’d like to share with you two important lessons that I learned in my youth.
When I was young, my friends and I often played ball in an alley behind our home. A woman named Mrs. Shinas rented a tiny house nearby, and she used to watch us play from her window. She rarely came out of her house, and when she did, she never smiled. We all thought that she was mean. She had a big dog, an English setter, and whenever one of our baseballs rolled in its direction—which happened often—Mrs. Shinas would send the dog to fetch it. We wouldn’t see the ball again. Soon we ran out of baseballs.
In those days, we didn’t have lawn sprinklers, and so each day I watered our lawn by hand with a hose. One day as I stood watering our little stretch of grass, I noticed that Mrs. Shinas’s lawn looked a little shabby. It took only a few more minutes to water it, too, and soon I was watering her lawn each day.
When autumn came that year, one of my tasks was to clear our yard of leaves. I sprayed the ground with a hose, pushing the leaves into a pile with the force of the water. I decided to gather up the leaves on Mrs. Shinas’s yard as well, and as I was doing this one day, she came to her door and beckoned for me to come inside. I turned off the hose and went into her house.
She invited me to sit in her living room, and she gave me a cookie and a glass of milk. As I sat there eating my cookie, she showed me her collection of little china dogs. I could tell that they were her most prized possession. Then she thanked me for taking care of her lawn. It was the first conversation I had ever had with her.
Mrs. Shinas then went into her kitchen and returned with a box. In it were all the baseballs that her dog had taken. She handed me the box, said thank you—and smiled! It was the first time I’d ever seen her smile.
I believe that love is shown by how you live, how you serve, and how you bless others. When we serve others, we are showing them that we love them, and we are also showing Jesus Christ that we love Him.
Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:15, 21).
I like the following poem, which is about love:
Which Loved Her Best?
“I love you, mother,” said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving his mother the wood to bring.
“I love you, mother,” said rosy Nell;
“I love you better than tongue can tell”;
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
“I love you, mother,” said little Fan;
“Today I’ll help you all I can.
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!”
So she rocked the baby till it fell asleep.
Then, stepping softly, she took the broom,
And swept the floor, and dusted the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and cheerful as child could be.
“I love you, mother,” again they said—
Three little children going to bed;
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
(Joy Allison, Highdays and Holidays, 133)
Another important principle is honesty.
I was in the Navy at the end of World War II when I was a very young man. My training took place near San Diego, California. Everyone in the Navy had to know how to swim, or they wouldn’t let him out of boot camp (training camp). I had learned to swim as a boy and could do it quite well.
One day an officer said, “All of you who can swim get to go to San Diego for the day. Those who can’t must have a full day of swimming lessons. So those of you who can swim, line up over here, and we’ll put you on a bus and take you into town.” I lined up with the swimmers—there were about 30 or 40 of us. But instead of having my group get on a bus, the officer marched us into the gym, where the swimming pool was.
I thought, You’re mixed up, fellow. We’re the ones who can swim. But, of course, I said nothing. We prepared for swimming and were ordered to jump into the deep end of the pool.
Most of us obeyed, but about 10 men in our group didn’t know how to swim. They had thought that they could go to San Diego without measuring up. The officer didn’t let them just stand there—he pushed them into the water. He let them go under the water, come up gasping for air, and then go down again. When they came up for the second time, a big bamboo pole was held out to them, and they were pulled to safety. Then the officer said sternly, “Don’t you ever lie to me again!” I tell you, I was glad I hadn’t tried that! The experience taught me the value of being honest and true to yourself at all times.
Love and honesty are two principles that will guide us all our lives.